Millennium Post

Chastity as tool of politics

Chastity as tool of politics
According to Oxford English dictionary chastity means the state or practice of refraining from extramarital sexual intercourse. In Indian politics Mahatma Gandhi made chastity into one of the virtues of politics. Historian Ramachandra Guha (in Patriots and Partisans) writes, ‘The essence of Gandhi’s faith consisted of a commitment to truth, chastity, non-violence, and, especially, service.’

While discussing corruption in Indian politics, we have seldom tried to measure it against the benchmark set by Mahatma. However, the ongoing political campaign for the assembly polls to the five states including four in the Hindi heartland may have inadvertently pushed some of the points of Gandhian faith onto the centre stage, calling for a major public debate.

Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit, who is fighting double anti-incumbency of her party’s government at the Centre and in the state, chose last week to attack rival BJP’s chief ministerial candidate Dr Harsh Vardhan of being an accomplice in the repeated rape of a domestic help in his official bungalow when he was a minister in Madanlal Khurana and Sahib Singh Verma governments between 1993 and 1998.

The matter was then raised in the House by BJP MLA PK Chandla. Vardhan had at that point of time fought the allegation scientifically offering to get the DNA test of himself, his adult male relations living in his house and that of the allegedly raped woman’s child done to establish their non-complicity in the matter. ‘If they can’t prove I am guilty, which they can’t, because I underwent a vasectomy seven years ago, they will have to face me in court,’ Vardhan had then said on the floor of the House.

However, Dikshit and her close aides Haroon Yusuf and Rajkumar Chauhan, both important ministers in Delhi government, chose to raise the issue to counter the charge of lack of safety of women in the national Capital. Though we would take up the defence of Vardhan later, it must be asked from ministers Yusuf and Chauhan that even if the charges were to stick how does it absolve the Congress-led governments at the Centre and in Delhi of the charges of having failed to provide adequate safety to women.

The charge coming from the Congress leaders was surprising as the party had chosen to maintain stoic silence on the matter when its veteran Narayan Dutt Tiwary was dragged to the court by his biological son Rohit Shekhar to establish the relationship between the two. Tiwary refused to give his blood samples for DNA test on voluntary basis. He was forced by the court to give the sample, which finally established the plaintiff’s relationship with the veteran leader who has been chief minister of both Uttar Pradesh and Uttaranchal and also held important positions in the Union cabinet. Those who follow Delhi politics would recall that the whole controversy had germinated from the succession battle which followed resignation of Khurana from the chief minister’s office in 1996 following his name cropping up in the hawala scandal. Vardhan, though a first timer then, as a young and dynamic health minister was also tipped to replace Khurana. It was not mere coincidence that Chandla and Purnima Sethi, another BJP MLA who raised the matter in the House, were known to be close to Sahib Singh Verma, who ultimately replaced Khurana. In fact the media reports at that time had suggested that the matter came to light only at the initiative of Vardhan himself. FIR in the matter was lodged when Vardhan intimated the chief secretary that the maid was pregnant and should be sent back to the custodial home. It was then widely suspected that either the gardener or a male servant may have fathered the child. The women in question was an inmate of Nari Niketan and had earlier worked at a house in south Delhi but was sent back by the family, citing ‘errant’ behaviour.

After Dikshit and her ministers raised the issue, your reporter asked Vardhan recently as to how was he going to counter the charge? He was very forthcoming with his reply, ‘I am ready to fight the elections on this very issue itself. In fact someday I would write a book on how dirt engulfs our politics and how challenging it’s for a new comer to overcome encumbrances of conventional politics.’

Expectedly, the issue has backfired and the Congress has since then been scurrying for cover. In fact, uncomfortable queries were put to the ministers as soon as they raised the matter at the routine briefing at chief minister’s residence. When they were asked what steps the Congress government had taken to ensure safety and security of the domestic help and her child, the chief minister, flanked by the two ministers, did not reply. The ministers, including the chief minister, were at loss of words when asked if they were aware of the whereabouts of the women and her child. There is some amount of blame to be shared by Vardhan too. He should have taken the matter to its logical end and dragged those who smeared his name to the court. He gave in to the pressure brought by his party leaders and decided to reconcile not realising that the linen had not been cleaned of all the dirt and could be washed in public by an opponent at a later date. However, what has surprised many is that the laundry for washing the linen was opened at Dikshit’s political office, which otherwise is known to have set standards for smear-free campaign and people have endorsed it on at least three occasions in the past.

The author is with Centre for Reforms, Development & Justice, and is Consulting Editor, Millennium Post
Sidharth Mishra

Sidharth Mishra

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